UK retail vacancy rates have fallen for a third consecutive half year, although they remain well ahead of pre-recession levels, according to Colliers International’s seventh National Retail Barometer report. The report, which uses void rates as a key indicator, showed that at October 2011, 12.7% of units across the sample of 15 towns and cities were empty, down from 13.3% last April. It also found that in terms of floorspace, retail vacancy was lower and falling faster; at October 2011 9.0% of floorspace was vacant compared to 9.7% six months earlier. Colliers said that the polarisation between prime and secondary continued, with prime space appearing to let well, while the vacancy rate for secondary stock remained high. However, it said that the market was difficult to call and that on balance, there was every possibility that vacancy rates will be higher at its next (April 2012) survey date. Dr Richard Doidge, director, Research Consultancy at Colliers International, said: “Although inflation is set to fall through the course of this year, muted wage growth and rising unemployment will ensure that household disposable income remains under considerable pressure. It is therefore likely that retail sales will remain subdued and retailers will face a tough 12 months, with a 5.6% rise in business rates in April a further blow. As a consequence, the downward trajectory of retail vacancy through 2010 and 2011 could end and void rates may increase once more – the void equivalent of a ‘double dip’.”

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